2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Matt Breida, Isaiah Crowell among top RB sleepers

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Find yourself picking at the end of the draft? Did everyone in front of you load up on running backs? Are you afraid to miss the run but having a hard time passing on Odell Beckham and Julio Jones?

I've been there a lot this year, and I'm here to tell you it's OK. You can start your team with a pair of receivers. You could even follow that up by taking Zach Ertz in the third. It's risky, but it can absolutely work. The key to success is going to be finding sleeper running backs late in the draft. I've got four, so let's get to it.

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Isaiah Crowell OAK • RB • 20
Att206
Yds853
TD2
FL1

Isaiah Crowell scored two touchdowns on 206 carries last year, and still finished as the No. 31 running back in Fantasy. Somehow he's now currently the No. 37 running back by ADP.

Are you worried about game scripts on a bad Jets team? Crowell has played on the worst team in football the past three seasons and finished no worse than 31st. Worried about sharing touches with Bilal Powell? Crowell shared with a better running back (Duke Johnson) in Cleveland. 

I get it, Crowell doesn't feel exciting. He doesn't have any upside, right? Well, he's still just 25 years old, and he's a year removed from a season where he was a top-15 back.

He'll be available in Round 8 of most drafts, and I've seen him fall as far as the 10th. If he falls outside the top-36 running backs in your league, he absolutely has the upside to best that by 15-20 spots in the rankings.

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Giovani Bernard CIN • RB • 25
Att105
Yds458
TD2
FL0

I don't get this one at all. OK, maybe I get why Bernard is the 54th running back taken by ADP in non-PPR drafts. I mean, it's probably 20 spots minimum lower than he'll finish, but I get it: Bernard is a pass-catching back, and Joe Mixon is going to dominate carries and limit his upside. Except no running back (including Mixon last year) has topped 55 percent of the carries in Cincinnati since Bernard arrived. 

In PPR, Bernard moves up slightly to 48th among running backs, but he's even more undervalued there. Over the final five weeks of 2017, Bernard was the No. 10 running back in PPR scoring. He has three seasons as a top-24 running back in PPR, and he would have been in 2016 as well if he hadn't missed six games due to injury. 

Worried about Bernard's upside? When Mixon missed Week 16 last season, Bernard had 168 total yards and a score. He will help your team if Mixon stays healthy all year, and may win your league if Mixon goes down. That type of player shouldn't be available in the double-digit rounds.

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Devontae Booker DEN • RB • 23
Att79
Yds299
TD1
FL1

I'm not a huge fan of Devontae Booker's skill set. But the Broncos really don't care what I think about him. It's sounding more and more like he has the inside track to start Week 1, and at the very least he'll be a part of a committee with rookie Royce Freeman. I agree Freeman should be drafted earlier than Booker, but I don't think Booker should fall to the 11th round as he is right now. 

I expect the Broncos offense will be improved this year with Case Keenum under center, and that should provide more red zone opportunities for the offense. At least at the beginning of the year, I'd expect Booker will get those opportunities, and it isn't exactly a gauntlet in terms of the run defenses he'll face.  

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Matt Breida SF • RB • 22
Att105
Yds465
TD2
FL0

How you take this may be dependent on how you feel about Jerick McKinnon, but it shouldn't be. Breida is currently being drafted in the 14th round as the 53rd running back off the board. He outperformed that as a rookie playing behind Carlos Hyde. Now he's behind (or sharing with) Jerick McKinnon, a running back who has never had more than 159 carries in his career. There are people who believe McKinnon can be a 300-plus touch running back this year while being productive and staying healthy. I am not one of those people.

I expect Breida to be involved in all facets of the game, similar to the situation we see in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. I also think there's an excellent chance he gets a shot in short-yardage situations. Breida's final two games offer a glimpse of what we could see in 2018. He had 11 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars in Week 16, and 12 carries for 72 yards (and a 32-yard reception) against the Rams. He won't be that efficient, but he could see that kind of workload and give you flex-type production on a semi-regular basis.

Like Bernard, he could explode if McKinnon can't hold up to an increased workload.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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